From the Baraza: Let The Games Begin
In honor of tonight’s opening ceremony for the London Olympics, the Baraza Residents share their thoughts on this age old tradition.
I have this condition where when someone mentions a word or phrase it immediately brings to mind whatever music I have mentally associated with it. Some people store images or other words, others associate smells – Barazza Resident Carrie could probably go into more detail about this. I use music. The Olympics brings to mind one of my absolute favorite pieces – Bugler’s Dream. *sigh* It’s amazing and lifts my heart the way only a select few pieces can. Here’s a clip for you to listen to as you read the rest of the residents’ contributions.
Australians love sport of all kinds. They also love an underdog. We tend to “down tools” for much of the fortnight that the Olympic Games are held in every 4 years in order to cheer on our athletes, regardless of discipline. This is no mean feat given that the time zone in which the Olympics are held is generally against us – depending on location, most of the events happen late at night or early in the morning our time. Needless to say, there are a lot of sleep deprived people wandering around during that period.
The most recent Olympics held in a favourable time zone for us was, not surprisingly, the Sydney Olympics in 2000. I remember going round to a friend’s place to watch the opening ceremony live, and feeling such a swell of pride to be Australian (despite some of the weirder stuff that went down during that ceremony).
The moment of the Sydney Olympics that stands out for all Australians was Cathy Freeman winning the gold medal for the women’s 400m event. Freeman is an indigenous Australian from a relatively impoverished background. She had suffered discrimination due to her status as an Aboriginal Australian and had had to overcome more than her fair share of adversity to become our leading track and field athlete. The pressure on her to win her pet event at her home Olympics was intense. The entire country was willing her to win, and when she crossed the finish line first she collapsed to the ground for a full minute in relief, before rising to do a victory lap draped in both the Australian and Aboriginal flags.
Freeman’s victory was memorable not only for the display of athletic prowess, but also because it united both indigenous and white Australians momentarily, and gave us hope for a more united and just future for Aboriginal Australians.
Although I wouldn’t ever consider myself a sports fan, I still love the Olympics. Gymnastics has to be my favorite, probably because I took lessons for a few years growing up. Surprisingly, I was really serious about it. The gym I went to even had the floor from the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and I thought we were hot stuff. After that I went to the US team’s exhibition tour and got all of their autographs, and boy, was I proud! Since then I’ve tried to follow the gymnastics trials up to the games. I also love the opening ceremonies because dance plays such an important role.
I love the Olympics–summer, winter, Japan, United States, England, Australia–wherever and whenever, sign me up. The drama that unfolds is like no other. Remember Carrie Strug landing that vault one-footed in Atlanta? I do. Heck, I get tears in my eyes just thinking about it. It’s not just the high profile sports like swimming and gymnastics that suck me in. Did you know America has a female fencer, Mariel Zagunis, has dominated the past two Olympics in sabre and looks to make it a three-peat? That girl is, if you excuse the phrase, bad-ass. Beyond the sports, I love watching things unfold. The spotlights on obscure athletes, the drama filled recaps (usually to a movie theme; Beijing favored the Pirates of the Caribbean theme), and the tear filled medal ceremonies are all so engaging. I can even handle the anger that inevitably comes from unfair scores or the heartbreak that one-tenth of a second can bring when it means the difference between a medal and fifth place. My one complaint is that I wish that it was mandatory that all Americans at least learn the words to the national anthem. It drives me crazy to watch the camera zoom in on Michael Phelps and see him smiling, obviously clueless as to when those ramparts were watched o’er. Learn the words, man!
The Olympics seem to hold a special place in everyone’s heart, be it a memory of a particular event or
the spirit of the games. For me, my favorite memory of the Olympic games is the U.S. men’s gold medal
in 4 x 100 metre freestyle relay.
The U.S. men’s win in the freestyle relay sticks with me because I remember watching and listening
to the commentators discuss who they thought would win this race. According to statistics and data
stated by the commentators, there was no way the Americans would be able to win the race. In fact
they predicted the French would prevail. And then, magic happened. Defying all odds, the Americans
won by eight-hundredths of a second. I remember silently hollering (my grandmother was asleep in a
nearby room) as I couldn’t believe what I saw happening. I think this is what I love about the Olympics:
watching teams defy odds and succeed. The underdogs winning. It’s every success story in a small
scope where individuals and teams work hard and win due to their discipline and diligence.
My earliest memories of the Olympics consist of my sister (Baraza resident Erin) and I sitting on the couch watching gymnastics. She was really into that stuff back then. We fought over who was going to wear the hot pink Shannon Miller wind suit. But aside from the gymnastics, the equestrian sports are always my favorite. I’m a sucker when it comes from horses. I mean, have you seen how high they can jump? It’s just phenomenal.